Ohio RB Demontre Tuggle (24) returns a kick in the second half of Ohio’s game vs. Central Michigan (PHOTO: Bryan Kurp/WOUB)

Ohio Football: Penalties, Miscues in second half cause Ohio to fall to Central Michigan

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MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — Ohio had just stopped the Chippewas on fourth down and took over on their own 36-yard line. Quarterback Kurtis Rourke led the offense down to the Central Michigan 35, and then pulled off an impressive run all the way to the Central Michigan 14-yard line. However, there was a flag on the play for holding. It negated the run and now set the Bobcats back at the 36. The next two plays? A sack and an incompletion. Unfortunately, plays like that were part of the reason Ohio (0-1) fell to Central Michigan (1-0) Wednesday night at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

“You can’t come out and play the type of game we played and expect to come out on top, even though we had a shot at the end to win,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said. “Penalties were very costly. We kept putting ourselves in long yardage situations way too many times tonight, which took us off the field, not allow us to continue our drives and putting the defense back out there.

The Bobcats had 11 penalties for 74 yards on the night, eight of those coming in the second half. It wasn’t necessarily how many came, but when they came. In the third quarter, a first down run by DeMontre Tuggle was called back because of an illegal hands-to-the-face that set them back 15 yards. The next two plays? A false start and a sack.

Penalties weren’t the only problem Ohio ran into in the second half. The Bobcats had two costly fumbles in the third quarter, which resulted in a Central Michigan rushing touchdown by Kobe Lewis. The two fumbles were also momentum killers as they occurred a little bit after big plays by the Bobcat offense. The first one occurred early in the third after Tuggle had just returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. The second occurred at the midway point of the quarter after Kurtis Rourke had just connected with Isiah Cox on a 34-yard pass.

“We had a couple of turnovers and lost the turnover battle, so all of those things make it very difficult to win a football game, especially against a good football team,” Solich said.

The Bobcats were two different teams on offense in the two halves. In the first half, The Bobcats offense scored 20 points, two touchdown passes by Rourke and one rushing by Tuggle. In the second half, the Bobcats offense was held scoreless and allowed four sacks. After recording 109 rushing yards through the first three quarters, the Bobcats were held to just one rushing yard in the fourth

While the penalties and miscues were a story in the game, that wasn’t the only one. We’ve had a quarterback battle throughout training camp and even today, we still don’t know who the definitive starter is. Kurtis Rourke got the start and was fantastic in the first half. On his first drive, Rourke found Shane Hooks in stride and connected with him on a 21-yard touchdown pass. Two series’ later, Rourke stepped back and launched a deep bomb 58 yards down the field and found Isiah Cox open and he streaked into the end zone for a score. Rourke finished 12 for 19 with 231 yards and two touchdowns.

As for transfer quarterback Armani Rogers, whenever he was in, the running game got going. Rogers first drive started with him rushing for 14 yards. The Bobcats would then proceed to run the ball every play and cap off a 10-play 75-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run by DeMontre Tuggle. Rogers finished with seven carries for 36 yards and was one of three for four yards passing.

“Going into the ballgame, we told both of them they were going to get snaps and play,” Solich said.  “Kurtis started off so good. He was very sharp on his throws, great timing on his releases and we had a tendency to keep going with Kurtis. Then when Armani did get in there, he showed you what he was capable of doing something special and so, they can both give you something.”

Another player who had quite the night was DeMontre Tuggle. The senior running back finished with 16 carries for 79 yards and 1 rushing touchdown, but he shined the brightest on kickoffs. He had three kick returns for a total of 160 yards, including a 93-yard kick return for a touchdown at the beginning of the second half.

On the defensive side of the ball, it was really a hit and miss night. At some points the Bobcats were struggling to slow down the Chippewa offense and were missing tackles. At other points, the Ohio Defense were forcing a lot of third down stops and giving the ball right back to their offense. After giving up 20 points in the first half, they had a much stronger second half and only gave up 10 points.

As for the Chippewas, they had a first-time quarterback as well. Daniel Richardson Made his first career start for CMU and was 23-41 for 243 yards and one touchdown pass, that being a 50 yarder to Kalil Washington in the first quarter. Their best player by far was running back Kobe Lewis. Lewis was a thorn in the Bobcats defense’ side all night as he finished with 115 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

With the loss, the Bobcats now fall to 0-1 in MAC play. If the Bobcats want to achieve their goal of making it to the MAC Championship game in December, they are going to have to win their five remaining games. They will have their home opener Tuesday, November 10 when they take on Akron.